Olivier Brouillet has worked as a manager for both Joel Robuchon and Thomas Keller. In 2009 he decided to ditch the world of Strip fine dining to open Baguette Café with his chef parents, Lucien and Claudie. Originally from the south of France, this 4th generation restaurant family has set a new bar for casual dining in Las Vegas by serving items such as sandwiches, soups and pastries done with such skill they could be served at the restaurants of Olivier's former employers. Here is an inside look on what makes this family special, why they are offering are not only delicious but socially conscious food, and the dishes you need to order that aren't on the menu.
With your family's extensive culinary background, what made you decide to open a café rather a fine dining restaurant? This was a fun project for us to take on, as we have never done such casual food before. We approached pedestrian foods by using real cooking techniques. For example, we cook all of our chicken sous vide in an immersion circulator. We really wanted to make good food accessible to everyone, and so far it's been successful. We have been rated in the 100 highest ranked affordable restaurants in the US by Yelp.
What do you like about doing business in Las Vegas? The people. We have incredible customers who love what we are doing. Nothing is better than seeing them get excited about the food we’re making. In France, people are always looking for what's wrong. Here people are happier and appreciate the food. We find it so touching that people will write such lengthy reviews about us on Yelp. In France, customers would never spend the time to do this.
Coming from the south of France, do you find it difficult to get the quality of ingredients you grew up with? Not really. Because we have the Strip, there are so many purveyors in Las Vegas who can get you anything you need. We make everything from scratch, except our croissant dough which we import from France because we don't have the kitchen space for the necessary equipment. One small challenge has been the climate. We bake our baguettes in small batches throughout the day, because if you only bake in the morning the bread will dry out by two in the afternoon.
How do your parents divide up the cooking roles? My mother does the baking and my father does the soups, spreads, and sauces. Neither uses recipes. My father rotates through over thirty different kinds of soups and gets his inspiration from whatever we have in the refrigerator. Our favorites are probably veloute and cream of Jerusalem artichoke and cream of white onion with goat cheese and curry spices.
Your location in an office complex makes it a little difficult for people to find you. Has this hurt your business? At first all of our customers were office workers from the complex, but now our customers are about 50% office workers and 50% foodies. Our customers are spreading the word and bringing new people in all the time. The majority of our customers are repeats.
What is your favorite sandwich? I am a vegetarian and eat raw whenever possible, so my favorite is probably one made with a sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto roughly processed to give it a nice crunch, as well as avocado and roasted red peppers. About 80% of our menu items are available either with or without meat, so some customers will opt to get this with chicken. We always offer two or three vegan sandwiches as well.
What is the best thing to order off the menu? About half of our menu is actually 'off the menu.' We will run specials and then our customers will come back requesting them, so we keep making them. Le Basque sandwich made with béarnaise, roasted pork, sautéed mushrooms, fresh organic spinach, tomato, and shaved parmesan is popular, and so is The Catalan made with dry cured ham, chorizo, cottage cheese, honey, lavender, roasted garlic spread, and roasted red peppers. We can only offer The Catalan sometimes as it is difficult to find good chorizo.
What besides the food makes your business special? Our ingredient sourcing and hospitality. We source from ethical companies because in our opinion, buying responsibly is more powerful than voting. We do not stock Nestle products like Perrier, or any Pepsi products, because they are buying the water rights out from under people who have no power to stop it. We also buy as many organic ingredients as possible and source from farms that practice sustainability. As far as hospitality, we are trying to help create a sense of community in Las Vegas. We know hundreds of customer names and see our customers getting to know each other as well. We think people are really craving these kinds of interactions.